93 minutes

"Tomorrow I need to go to work." "No you don't, you're not going to go to work tomorrow." That's it, case closed, as a young woman at Cairo's Tahrir Square lays down the law to a fellow protester in the early days of the square's occupation by disgruntled Egyptians in January 2011. Cairo wasn't the beginning of the "Arab Spring" that swept the Arab world in the early months of 2011, but it remains one of its high points, thanks to the stubborn determination of protesters such as that young woman to stay put until the Mubarak regime collapsed thoroughly (but has it really?).

     Those are the unsung heroes Italian documentary filmmaker Stefano Savona follows with his Canon 5D camera through the three weeks of occupation. Mr. Savona, a former archaeologist who knows Cairo well, flew there once the revolution that wasn't one began, to document what has happening down on the ground, among the crowd assembled in Tahrir. Avoiding any sort of editorializing or voiceover, the film is essentially a 90-minute foot soldier's eye-view of the unfolding events, always uncertain of what is going on; alternately, the scene in the square is a block party celebrating power to the people, a campus battle using pavement stones, a quiet fireside chat about dreams and hopes, a disgusted reaction to a televised speech. You can feel the electricity, the rage, the disappointment flow through the crowd as they realise their power as a group is much bigger (and much more fragile) than they think.

     Tahrir - Liberation Square is hardly a perfect film, and to Mr. Savona's credit that's not what he was looking for; it is, instead, a snapshot of history in the making, taken as events unfolded and filtered through the reactions of half a dozen locals the director follows through the course of these three weeks. It ends up as a heartfelt portrait of a moment in a country in transition, with all the pros and cons of such an approach, giving it an incalculable value as a document.

Directed and photographed (in colour) by Stefano Savona; produced by Penelope Bortoluzzi, Marco Alessi, Carla Quarto di Palo; film editor, Ms. Bortoluzzi.
     A Picofilms/Dugong production in collaboration with RAI 3, Cécile Lestrade/Alter Ego and Périphérie Centre de Création Cinématographique. (World sales, Picofilms.)
     Screened: DocLisboa 2011 official competition advance screener, Lisbon, October 21st 2011.


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